30 June 2008


From the Cop/ Soldier Side:
OK, a while back I said I was going to post some tips on Motorcycle riding. We've had way too many of our troops making it through one of the wars, getting back home, buying a nice motorcycle...then crashing.
My first topic covered checking the bike over before riding. Remember, if you get a blow out in a car, you have 3 other wheels to keep you going. get a blow out on a bike and you're screwed (unless you know what to do)
My second suggestion is to wear proper equipment when riding. I don't give a shit if you live in a state where you don't have to wear a helmet. You MUST always wear a helmet. You must always were some kind of boots, gloves, glasses or full face shied, long sturdy pants and anything else you can put on for protection. When you hit the pavement, even at low speeds, it'll scape off your skin like a grinder....and that hurts.
Guys: Trust me, the girls won't think you're a stud by wearing anything less. Remember the body armor and crap you wore in Iraq? Nobody thought you were wuss there. carry on.
Next, find someone who knows what the f--- they 're doing on a bike. I've seen and heard of too many dumbasses teaching others how to ride. Find someone who's had some real training and ask them to help you. Most Motor Cops have gone through a lot of training and know what they're doing...but not all states require cops to be fully trained.
After you find someone to help you, get a small older bike to practice on. Learn to keep your feet off the friggen ground. Learn the clutch and throttle, learn to look where you want the bike to go- If you look at the guardrail, that's what you're going to run into. Look where you want the bike to go.
After you've done some un-official training and you think you know what you're doing, go take a class. After that class, ride for a few months and then take an advanced class.
Don't be like me. I started out learning from my dad. He was a truck driving instructor in the Air Force....he didn't have a clue how to ride a motorcycle. When the Police Dept started to pre-train me--- I rode like a spazz. I had to break bad habits and learn the proper way to brake, turn, counter steer and all kinds of stuff. Start our learning the right way with good habits. I now have over 18,000 miles on my own bikes with no crashes. I still assume everyday that someone is out there trying to kill me and I watch for them every second.
I guy I talked to in Bosnia who owned a nice motorcycle asked me: "What's the best bike?" My answer: "The one you're riding."
Ride on, ride safe, ride forever.

28 June 2008

LEADERSHIP 101: Who makes a good leader?

From the Soldier & the Cop side: Having been a cop for about 29+ years and a soldier for about 20, one question that also pops up in these jobs (besides "how many people have you killed") is:
What is the most difficult part of either job?
Well, I like both my cop job and what I do for the Army National Guard. I think, most of the time I do both jobs well. However, the one common point that has come up, that not only frustrates me, but makes either job much more difficult is - Bad Leadership!

Please don't get me wrong. In both jobs I have had some really good leaders. Some I would go anywhere with and trust to take care of me. There are a few others who are at the top of my list of what I call "useless pieces of shit." These "leaders" were, or still are, out for themselves. One big difference between police work in California and the Army in general, in police work they do psychological screening. I always thought that the military would be so much better if they required this type of screening before a person could get promoted above a certain rank. Think about this for a minute--- do you think we have some people leading lots of troops with lots of guns and things that could kill and destroy who have a mental problem? I'm certain of it.

Here's a case in point.... if you haven't noticed, almost all people who have some kind of mental illness are only concerned with one person in life- themselves. When a person is placed in a leadership roll in either police work or the military, they must take care of their troops. How can a selfcenteredpieceofshit do that? They can't.

Fort Irwin, Summer a few years after the First Gulf War was over: My National Guard Engineer company was out in the desert playing with the regular Army. We were in armored vehicles (M113s) about 20 miles from the main post. During this training, all vehicles were equipped with the new MILES gear. This was an expensive "laser tag" device that would register when a vehicle was hit with a blank charge by the enemy "OPOR."
The vehicles were also equipped with a tracking device, so the graders could monitor the movements of each unit. This could be digitally played back later to show what was done right and what was done wrong.
During the Field Training Exercise (FTX) we were out in the desert for several days in a row. We had nothing to eat but MREs and the water we carried on our vehicles. I had a portable stove to make coffee for my guys in the morning. But we had to struggle to even get enough water each day.
Then there was one SFC, Sergeant First Class (E-7) who had his own Humvee. One morning he decides to get up early and drive his truck 20 miles back to the main post. He didn't know that the observers could follow the movements of his truck and they watched him drive all the way back to Burger King.
Now, if it was me, I would have picked up breakfast for my guys and coffee for anyone who needed it.
The SFC pulled into the drive up window and the observers hit the "KILL" button on his truck and all the flashing strobe lights and tones went off. He had to drive all the way back with the lights and noise.
What did he bring back? 1 breakfast sandwich and 1 cup of coffee for himself.

After that, nobody had any use for that asshole. He was not a leader, he was out for himself. We had a few "leaders" like him in Bosnia and Iraq. The difference in Iraq is people like this would get troops killed for no reason. It's bad enough fighting an enemy, we should never have to suffer from bad leadership. I'm sure everyone in uniform knows a few. Useless leaders out for themselves.

(Now this SFC could have easily gone to "Hero" status if he had just brought back coffee for the rest of us.)

23 June 2008

Confuse the heck out of People...

From the Citizen and Soldier side: (Please feel free to leave your comments. If I don't like em', I'll just remove them). OK I've' had a few friends and what nots ask me some questions about an assortment of things. Since I've been a cop, I've gotten used to dumbass questions like: "Have you ever had to shoot anyone?" I usually look back at them with a totally straight face and say: "Not in a few weeks...why do you know someone who is in need?"

Same crap when I got back from Iraq. We were at the range the other day (I'm a range master for the Police Dept) and a couple of the very young dispatchers came out to shoot. (I am in agreement that police dispatchers should be armed.) Now, keep in mind, I'll tell you war sucks. One of the few things I agree with McCain on is: anyone who thinks war is good is full of crap or a fraud....I'm sure he didn't say it that way, but you get the idea.

Anyway, I'm showing one of the officers something on the M-4 Carbine. And one of the dispatchers ask me: "How many people did you kill in Iraq?"

That caught me off guard. Then I realized that she, like most Americans have no idea what the troops (Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force) do in Iraq. They don't understand that the military is made up of a lot of jobs. Their are people from payroll clerks to mechanics. (although Kellogg Brown and Rot are taking a lot of these jobs on-- for a great profit)
I just looked at her and said: "Oh, I just repaired mess kits." and went back to showing the rookie officer how to shoot the darn weapon straight.
If you know a vet from one of the recent events, don't assume anything. For one thing, if they survived Iraq, they did something right...the rest of their lives will be a cake walk compared to that place. But, take the time to ask them what they did...don't be a dumbass and ask how many people they killed.
I spent a year in Iraq. I carried or wore 35 pounds of body armor, an M-4, 9 magazines, an M-9 with 7 mags, first aid kit, water, helmet, goggles etc. I finally realized if I was going to die, it was going to be a mortar or an IED. I'd not get shot at and get to return fire. So, I carried all that shit just to get hot and tired each day.
(For the record, I didn't kill anyone there....I set it up for the shooters to do that.)
Treat your friends and family like you love them. Treat each day like it's that last day you'll ever see them... take care of them. You never know when you're going to get called away.

21 June 2008

Earth Quake 89' Part IV

From the Citizen Soldier side: OK, let me get done with the earthquake story. Looking back on it, I have to admit it seemed pretty exciting at the time...but nothing compared to Iraq. I think the big reason our Earth Quake mission went so well is we had some good leaders with us. The commander would put people in charge that he knew would get the job done regardless of rank. Sometimes this upset more senior people--- but in some cases the more senior people were not the best leaders we had.
After we settled into our rooms, the next day we went out and began clearing a road that had been almost totally blocked by a landslide from the quake. We had 15 dump trucks and 2 scoop loaders on the job. I started out operating a dump truck. By about noon, the commander was pulling the senior sergeant of the road clearing job and putting him somewhere else. So who got put in charge of the road clearing mission? Me. I was just a "Spec 4" (E-4) at the time. But the commander figured that I could better organize the job. I did. I came up with a system for the dump trucks to stage down the hill and come up when they saw another truck come down. There was not enough room on the road for more than a few trucks at a time and when more came up they got stuck. This wasted time and was a hazard.

While we were working on clearing the road it was raining. So the broken hill was now getting wet. We had two things to worry about- 1. After shocks bringing down more of the hill on top of us 2. Mud slides bringing down the hill on top of us. (But looking back I think "nobody was shooting at us.")
The entire time we were clearing the road, we would have after shocks every few hours. Big ones that almost brought down more of the hill. After awhile most of us got use to them...some didn't and didn't want to work there.
Each dump truck was designed to hold 5 tons. I'm sure we were putting a lot more into them, but they didn't seem to mind. We had no accidents and did this for a few days. On about the fourth day some expert from the State came out. He looked at the hill and the road and said it was too unsafe for us to be there.

Another funny thing I saw was that the State and that county didn't really understand what different National Guard units could do. It seems the first Guard unit to arrive was kind of useless. When we showed up with construction equipment and soldiers who not only knew how to use it, but loved using it--- they were very happy. They asked if we could build things with wood. Yep. We could build anything. (Never before in the history of Army Kind have so few done so much with so little for so many.)

A few days later we went to the fair grounds. There we saw dozens of families living in camping tents. It was like a giant camp ground. As soon as we drove up, kids ran up to us and asked if we had any food. We told them we only had MREs. They were happy to get those.
The county asked us to build 10 wooden floors so they could put big tents on them. (about 12 feet be 40 feet) The county provided the wood and nails. We provided the muscle. The county estimated it would take us 5 days to make the wooden floors.

But 4 PM we had 7 done. The next day we built the other 3 before noon. And these were solid floors... all level. (we had a few guys who were carpenters in their civilian life)

The funniest part was...when we got sent off for this mission...nobody from our headquarters went along. As soon as they heard that our local news paper was going to send a reporter down...they sent some officers from HQ down. Those officers were in all the photos that were taken---however they never once lifted a hammer or drove a dump truck to help...they didn't do jack, but got in the news. Great leaders.

I left after a few weeks of this, but others stayed on for about a month or so. It felt good to help so many people.

14 June 2008

Earth Quake 89' part III

From the Citizen Soldier side: To continue with my earthquake story.... Oct 1989... We had gone to the nearby former Air Force base and set up our tents. We were very lucky so far in that only one of our Army cooks showed up. Thank God we would not have to eat our cooks food. These guys were the worst cooks I had ever seen...most were drunks who often over slept and never got us breakfast in time. It is really hard to describe how bad they were, but even dogs would not eat their cooking. So, they leaders set up contract feeding at Denny's restaurant. This was much better but things go rough when they run out of shrimp with the "Steak and all you can eat Shrimp dinner."

After a few days of sitting around doing nothing, we were ordered to load our stuff back into our trucks and go back to our armory. This had us totally confused...but as I found out much later, the State and all their leaders still couldn't figure out what to do. (I heard of this happening many time in later emergencies in other states as well.) Our State leaders didn't understand what the different National Guard units had the ability to do. They seemed to have thought that we could only shoot people or something.

We went back to our armory and our leaders put out the word that they needed about 30 people to take 15 Five Ton dump trucks to the Santa Cruz area for earthquake assistance. They had 50 volunteers, then picked out 30 of us from that 50. We were given a few hours to go back home and pack more uniforms and stuff, then report back and be ready to roll out. I was handed a military license to operate a dump truck...even though I had never driven one before. I figured I would have plenty of time to figure it out.

We arrived in the Santa Cruz, California area around 7 PM. We found a place for dinner and ate. The put us up in rooms at a local church resort. The buildings were only somewhat cracked and damaged from the earthquake (they all got red tagged and torn down later.) By 10 PM we had our first after shock form the earthquake...we got so used to this that we had bets on when they would come and how big they would be. Some would almost knock you off your feet. Kind of wild. (but still a hell of a lot better than Iraq.)

To be cont.

11 June 2008

EARTHQUAKE 89' Cont....

From the Citizen Soldier side: So to continue with my earthquake story. We were called into the National Guard Armory with little guidance. I packed a duffel bag with underwear, socks a toilet kit and spare uniform and drove to the armory without a clue as to what I would get to see.

Being that we were a combat engineer company, we had 15 5 ton dump trucks, back hoes, dozers and all kinds of construction equipment including but not limited to chain saws, hammers, etc.
We also had some other things that the normal civilian construction company would not have...on to the trucks we loaded riot batons, helmets, M-16s, gas mask and lots of MREs. The first rumor was that we were going to San Francisco to shoot looters.

After that rumor, some of us started more rumors. The SF Bay bridge was broken, so we started telling some of the privates we were going to fix it. Before long, there were so many rumors flying around (and I was having a good time starting some of them) that the company commander had to call head quarters to find out what they heck we were going to do.
The news showed bridges and freeway over passes down, buildings on fire, people looting, the cops and fire fighters overwhelmed and out of communications in some areas. A perfect time to send in the National Guard with loaded weapons....right?

This was going to be fun. Our platoon was always the first to get things done...we seemed to have the brightest people who worked the hardest. By midnight we had all of our gear loaded and ready to go. The 2 other platoons couldn't seem to get their act together. First they would load stuff on the trucks, then take it off because some confused leader didn't like the way it was loaded....they went on doing this all night...whilst our platoon tried to get a little sleep.

I got no sleep that night. By 8 am the next morning, without any apparent reason, we then convoyed to a near by former Air Force base and made camp with our tents. Why we went there I still have no friggen idea....but we stayed there a few days and waited for the State to figure out where to send us. I guess there was nobody in authority who had done anything like this before....so they had no idea what to do.

To be cont....

06 June 2008

The 4 Seasons of the CAL ARMY NATIONAL GUARD

From the Citizen Soldier side: I've been writing about my adventures in police work and Iraq, but I've never written about some of the "good old days" in the California Army National Guard. (One weekend a month my ass.) I got out of the "real" Army in the 1970's. I stayed away from the Green Machine for a long time. Then one night I was having a cup of coffee with a cop friend of mine from another department and he mentioned that he was in the Guard. I asked a few questions...then before I knew it I had signed up.

I joined a Combat Engineer unit near where I lived. It was great. They had all kinds of big trucks, tractors, dozers, and guns to go with them. We were like construction workers with machine guns. I had gone to a short Engineers school and became MOS qualified so I could do my job. I loved the Combat Engineers. Not only did we get to build things and play with guns...but every once in a while we got to blow stuff up!

We came to call the missions the State called us out for the "Four Seasons of the Cal National Guard" they were Earthquake, Flood, Fire and Riot (after 9/11 we added the fifth- War.)

October 17, 1989. I live in the area where the San Francisco Giants and the Oakland As are the "local" base ball teams. So when they were both in the World Series on this date, I was at home getting ready to watch the game on the TV. There was nothing that could prevent me from seeing this game. Baseball is the greatest sport in the world.
October 17, 1989 5:04 PM. Just as I was cracking open a cold beer....the TV went blank. Then a few seconds later, my house started shaking so bad that I could barely stand up. ( when a big earthquake hits, it's like a rolling action. It started south of San Francisco, then rolled in all directions....it took out the power in the city, then a few seconds later it hit where I lived.) My 6 year old son was upstairs and he began to scream. I had told him where to go if there was an earthquake...but how could I expect a 6 year old to actually remember that under a 7.1 earthquake?

IT shook like hell for what seemed like days. I got my family under the dinning room table (it was made out of Oak and if the house fell, at least we'd die under a nice table.) The shaking stopped. I we waited for 5 more minutes....no after shocks. OK we lived. I got up and had everyone go outside the house while I checked for gas leaks etc. Almost everything was OK.

Then I called the Police Dept where I worked to see if they needed me. But the phones were not working. An hour or so later when the phones were working, I called the PD again. The officer said he thought everything was ok and they didn't need me. So then I called my National Guard unit. They said they had no calls yet (the phone lines at the the center where still out...so nobody knew for awhile how bad it was.) About 70 people died in what became the Loma Prieta Earthquake, or the Quake of 89'.

I went to bed about 10 PM. At 10:20 PM the National Guard called me. They said the grab my stuff and come on in...we were needed.

To be cont.

02 June 2008

Death in an M1114 part 2

From the Soldier side: I'll continue my story. I have to warn you, this will be somewhat graphic and very sad.
Roberto was the assistant team leader. The team leader of his team was called in for some BS and the mission for the day had been called off. All they were going to do was take the replacement team out into Baghdad and show them around.
Since the team leader was off talking to someone at higher up, the commander felt that the team should go out anyway so the new guys could learn their "AO" (Area of Operation) before the old team left.
What I guess the commander didn't understand was, that when the teams went out into Baghdad, they just didn't go for a joy ride. They always had some kind of reason and a plan on which route to take that day... due to the IED threats etc. The commander told Roberto to take the new guys out even though there was no mission plan.
Roberto was a good soldier, so he gave a crisp salute and said: "yes sir" and told the folks to get ready. Roberto planned for himself to drive the lead truck and to take the new replacement team leader with him along with one other new guy. (Don't even ask me who these new guys were, I never had a chance to even meet them.)
Roberto figured who would ride in which Hummer and threw together a quick briefing: "we're going out to bla bla bla and taking route bla bla bal."
Little did they know that the route picked had been subject to IED attacks the last 2 days. The S-2 didn't provide any useful info (they sucked.) But Roberto drove on with Big J on the gun in the lead truck. With the best gunner in Iraq there should have been no worries.
This is what Big J told me happened as best as I can recall since I didn't take notes:

"We were driving along and got stopped in heavy Baghdad city traffic. The trucks behind us were getting hit with pot shots from some insurgent. I bent over in my turret and told Roberto that the rear trucks were taking fire. Roberto started driving up on curbs etc to get moving. However, were were still getting pinged with small arms fire.
We finally started to move and came up to a lane merge. Roberto slowed a little to see if any traffic was coming then.... a big flash of light. I felt like I had been hit in the head. I hurt all over and was starting to collapse in the turret. I remember looking down and seeing that Roberto was not in the drivers seat, but the truck was still rolling. I couldn't figure out who was driving because there was nobody in the drivers seat. This was really strange. (the IED had vaporize Roberto).
The truck continued to roll, then stopped when it hit something. It was on fire, so I knew I had to get out. I was still falling down, so I fell into the back seat and knew I had to get out of the truck because I didn't want to be burned. I knew I had to get my SAW (M-249 machine gun) but I couldn't stand up and reach it. I was trying not to pass out. I got the back door opened and sort of crawled out of the truck. The new team leader and the other new guy were crawling towards a ditch.
We all got into the ditch and I told them I didn't have a weapon. They had weapons and said if anyone came over the top of the ditch, they were going to shoot them. We all thought we were going to die in that Goddamn ditch. A few minutes later some soldiers who must have been driving near when we got hit ran over and yelled at us. They came into the ditch and I passed out."
That was about all Big J could remember from that trip. He got pissed off when our first sergeant called his wife back home and said he might have lost his leg in the blast. It wasn't his bones they saw when the medics finally saw him...they were Roberto's bones. Big J was burned really bad, but as I told him he was pretty ugly before, so nobody would notice.
So, the next time you hear of a soldier of Marine getting killed with an IED on TV, think about what went through their minds. This was Roberto's 150th plus mission into Baghdad. I don't even think he had counted how many times he had gone out. He was supposed to leave 2 weeks after he was killed. The new guys with him had not even been in Iraq more than a week or so. The new guy in the second truck in the convoy got hit 2 more times after this and never got a scratch. He's an Army Reserve who volunteered to go back again. It's not how do soldiers and Marines get through a tour, but how do they go back again and again that I can't figure out.

01 June 2008

Death in an M1114

From the Soldier side: I've mentioned that a friend of mine was killed in Iraq in Jun 2005. Roberto was a good man and I still get a little sad thinking about him. If you can't recall, Roberto was killed when an IED (Improvised Explosive Device) hit his Hummer in Baghdad. It was one of the fancy perpetrator types that cut through the armor plating like it was butter.
Big J was the gunner on that trip, in Roberto's truck. Big J got medavaced out of Iraq before I ever had a chance to talk to him to find out what the hell happened. Big J went to Walter Reed Hospital and even got a visit from Bush. It took me a while, but I was able to get a hold of Big J while I was still in Iraq. He felt responsible for the truck getting hit since he was the gunner and he was supposed to watch out for all threats.
The sneaky insurgentassholes hid the IED so nobody would have seen it. It was not Big J's fault. I e-mailed him and made sure he knew he was a hero and the best goddamngunner in Iraq as far as I felt. Big J is still a hero in my book and he will aways be.
I had not seen Big J until last year when our National Guard unit went to Camp XXX for training. We had a few minutes to sit and talk on a bus ride. I told Big J's new team leader (who had not been deployed yet) that he was a hero. Everyone in listening distance stopped to listen to what I had to say. (I made Big J blush a little) I told how he did the "gunners dance" when he was on convoy and kept all evil persons away from the convoy with his magic.
I told how he stripped his machine gun down every night and cleaned and lubed it to make sure it would work (like I taught him) and how he felt every person riding on his convoy was his duty to protect. He was the absolute BEST gunner I ever rode with.
Later Big J told me about the day their truck was hit. That is a good story....I'll tell you all about what he told me...
To be Cont...